It has been awhile since my last birdwatching trip, so it was with anticipation that I set off to meet Keith at Gravesend for a trip into unknown territory. We often walk the promenade at Gravesend, usually before RSPB meetings as it is a convenient place midway between our homes. On these walks we often look across the river and wonder about what is on the other side, around the town of Tilbury in Essex. So it was on this day that we decided to venture across the water and see what possible habitats we could find.

We took the ferry from Gravesend, leaving from Town pier.

and 10 minutes later were stepping ashore at Tilbury

Even as we left the terminal we could see the potential of this site for waterbirds and waders in the winter. Unlike the developed Gravesend riverfront, the Essex side, east of the terminal is just marshland (to the west is the cruise terminal and the container port!).

Inland from the river was a mosaic of grassland and pools which surround Tilbury Fort

Tilbury Fort was originally built by Henry VIII to protect London from ships coming up the river and eventually became one of a number of forts on both sides of the Thames. It has been updated in many conflicts and during times of tension since as can be seen by the current armaments, which date from WW2.

Moving on we passed more marshland until we reached the power station, where the path turns inland. We hardly saw anyone on our walk, although we did find our way blocked by a family of horses at one point.

There plenty of butterflies and it was nice to see some Marbled Whites, a species which seems to be spreading into London and is seen much more frequently than it used to be.

There was not a great variety of birdlife present, with Mediterranean Gull probably being the best sighting, but the site will be a lot more productive in the winter, when the water birds return to the river from their nesting grounds.

So with lunchtime drawing on, we made our back to the ferry and the crossing to Gravesend.

After lunch we did our normal walk along the promenade to Gravesend Fort and the local park.

The highlight of our walk was a Painted Lady butterfly, which we found in the park.

A good day out and some nice sightings but also we have identified another local area of potential, which we cant wait to return to in the winter months to see what is there “across the water”.

Sue and I trip down to see Keith on his home patch for a few hours birdwatching. Our first stop was the RSPB reserve at Northwood Hill in search of Nightingales and Cuckoos.

Both species are vocal when they first arrive in this country but soon fall silent, in the case of Nightingales, or depart after laying there eggs. so its important if you are going to locate them to do so early on. Both birds were in fine voice with at least 5 different Nightingales, and 2 cuckoos on the path down to the viewpoint. There were also a number of Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff.

Nightingale singing at Northwood Hill

Arriving at the viewpoint we had lunch looking over the marshes. Whilst having lunch we had a variety of birds singing from the surrounding vegetation including Nightingale, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap

After lunch we traced our way back to the car, serenaded again by Nightingales. The sun had come out and so had some early butterflies including Red Admiral, Peacock, Orange Tip and most surprisingly, a Painted Lady.

Blackcap (m). Photo by Keith

Our second stop was Keith’s local patch at Abbotts Court. A party of Swallows with one House Martin were over the lakes together with Blackcaps and another Cuckoo, which flew over our heads. A Reed Warbler was also heard.

In all we saw 40 species in a few hours and caught up with some of the recently arrived summer visitors.

Sunrise #43 — talainsphotographyblog

I am a real sucker for a great sunrise or sunset photo, so I had to share this one when I saw it.

It was good to be able to get back to visiting familiar haunts. It is probably a year since Keith and I walked the riverfront at Gravesend, so it was great to be able to visit on Thursday.

The normal wader population that we would see in the winter had gone to the breeding grounds but the highlight of the day was 7 Mediterranean Gulls in full plumage. Also 2 Blackcaps singing in the riverside park.

A post-lockdown trip back to Bough Beech. The water level is still high and there is little to be seen on the reservoir apart from the resident geese and grebes. A couple of Buzzards drift aimlessly over the back of the north reservoir, but all is very quiet. still it is good to be out again.

I make my way down the road to the old Oast house. a party of Sand Martins and Swallows, my first this year, pass over the road and continue north. A Greater Spotted Woodpecker is the highlight of the birds on the feeders and a get a brief view of the Kingfisher as it darts past the bridge, whilst a Reed Bunting briefly emerges from the Reed-bed. No butterflies yet to be seen, perhaps still a little cold for them. A sparrowhawk drifts over on the way back to reservoir. 34 species is not a bad list for a couple of hours, but it is just good to be out again!

Mute Swan

Posted: March 26, 2021 in Birds, Natural History
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photo by Sue

photo by Sue

photo by Sue

photo by Sue

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I have lived just down the A20 from Crittalls Corner for 21 years and wondered where the name came from? In the other direction we have Clifton’s roundabout, which was named after a garage that used to stand on the side of the roundabout. The garage is still there, but no longer called Clifton’s. A little further away is the Yorkshire Grey roundabout, named after a pub which occupied the south side. Again, the building is still there although these days it is a McDonalds restaurant. But I didn’t know anything about Crittall’s until quite by chance I came across this in a blog post.

Francis Berrington Crittall started his eponymous company in 1849, but it wasn’t until 1884 they started making their famous metal windows which even found their way onto the Titanic. The company has always been based around Braintree in Essex, so it is a bit of a mystery why a roundabout on the A20 near Sidcup where one of their factories stood on its north-west corner should have been given the accolade of Crittalls Corner.

I copied the text but sadly the browser closed before I could get the details of the blog, so a thank you anyway to the person who blogged it. great to finally know after all these years.

Canada Goose

Posted: March 11, 2021 in Birds, Natural History
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The Canada Goose is one of our common resident geese, Introduced from North America from the late 17th century it has spread across almost the whole of the UK and is often found on city lakes and in parks as well as in the countryside.

It is estimated that there are around 62,000 breeding pairs in the UK with a peak population of around 190,000 birds.

Flock of Canada Geese with a single Greylag Goose (centre)

Bulfinch

Posted: March 4, 2021 in Birds, Natural History
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One of my favourite birds but rare in my area now.

A new visitor to the Garden

Posted: February 25, 2021 in Birds, London, Natural History, UK
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Was surprised to find a Fieldfare in the garden the other day. This was the first record since we arrived here in 2000 and took the garden list to 46 species. I didn’t manage to photograph it but here are some pictures of Fieldfare taken at Bough Beech earlier in the year